Marketing automation is a term we hear a lot these days. But how does it affect the bottom line? And is it really worth the investment?
For a variety of reasons—some good and some not so good—the sales and marketing teams in most organizations operate as separate entities. Marketing automation software can be the glue that binds the sales and marketing functions together and focuses them both on the big picture: turning prospects into customers and existing customers into repeat customers.
Basic Benefits of Marketing Automation
In the digital age we now live in, the importance of marketing effectiveness, efficiency, and ROI have become even more prominent. And the proliferation of new channels has made it more challenging to reach the right customers with the right messages at the right time. Marketing automation can address those issues by enabling:
- Reduced cold calling: Marketing automation puts the potential buyer in the driver’s seat. Every time a person visits a website that is designed to nurture her through the sales funnel, she is provided opportunities to give signals for when she is ready (or qualified) to move to the next stage. Cold calling is reduced, if not completely eliminated, because the website is feeding the sales representative “ready-to-buy” leads. All the rep will have to do is look at his dashboard and review a potential buyer’s information, as collected by the software. It’s then up to the rep to start a conversation. The best part is, by that point, the potential buyer actually wants to talk to the rep.
- Better data collection: Marketing automation software allows you to build a detailed profile for a website visitor. Not only can you collect a person’s name and e-mail address, but also his company, title, phone number, location, budget, etc. Any specific details you believe are important in qualifying a prospect for sales can be collected through marketing automation. This is done by providing website readers with content good enough that they’ll give you that information. This means you can build out your customer relationship management (CRM) or sales force automation (SFA) system with all the information a sales representative needs to have an effective and educated conversation with a potential buyer.
- List segmentation: Marketing automation helps you better meet the needs of potential buyers. First, you need to offer high-quality content on your website that addresses particular industry problems and offers solutions. The marketing automation software can then segment people into lists based on their online interests and behavior. This allows marketers to provide more content through targeted e-mail nurturing, which helps the potential customer make a purchasing decision. This segmentation and e-mail nurturing keep people who are qualified to buy in your funnel, and they segment out those who aren’t.
- Shortened sales cycle: A sales cycle typically grows longer if you fail to provide the right materials at the right time. Marketing automation provides potential buyers the information they need, when they want it. Your marketing team can better learn what materials, times, dates, and other metrics convert leads at a higher rate though continuous conversion rate optimization (CRO).
There are numerous other benefits to marketing automation, including a multichannel view of prospect behavior, better alignment of sales and marketing goals, and improved lead conversion and ROI.
What Capabilities Are Key?
Over the past few years, the most popular marketing automation solutions have begun offering a comprehensive range of integrated capabilities, such as:
- Lead capturing, scoring, and nurturing
- E-mail campaign management and landing pages
- Website visitor tracking and analysis
- Website form generation
- SEO and PPC campaign management
- Social media posting, tracking, and analysis
- Scheduling and task management
- Budgeting and forecasting
- CRM, SFA, and app integration
The Leading Players
Although this isn’t an exhaustive list, some of the more popular marketing automation providers include:
Determining which one is the best fit for your organization can depend on a number of variables, such as your marketing and sales goals, which capabilities you need the most, your staffing levels, and of course, your budget. So be sure to do your homework and make your selection carefully.
Looking Down the Road
Marketing automation isn’t going away. In fact, automation software companies are continuously adding and improving their features due to the high demand for such services and solutions. Most programs are now able to integrate with various CRM and SFA systems. Some even have built-in CRM, giving businesses an all-in-one solution for marketing and sales needs.
The longer you wait to start using marketing automation to help streamline the marketing and sales process, the more difficult it will be to adopt later. Besides, why wait to start closing more business?
A final thought: “Not implementing a marketing automation solution may be the ultimate career-limiting move for today’s marketers. If you haven’t gotten started, you’re already behind the eight ball.” ~IDC